New research by My Dentist, the UK’s largest dental group, has today revealed how a lack of understanding amongst parents on the importance of early dental care is leaving the NHS with an estimated £22m annual bill. The survey of over 2,000 UK-based parents highlights how dental disengagement has left over 1 million children aged eight and under still waiting for their first trip to the dentist. Additionally, over 700,000 children who have been to the dentist have had at least one filling, each at a cost of £31 to the Department of Health.
These findings demonstrate an urgent need for more initiatives for educating and engaging parents and their children on oral health and the importance of looking after their teeth properly from a young age.
Many parents failed to take their children to the dentist early enough with 57% of respondents not going until after their first birthday, considerably later than when teething starts, despite almost 50% reporting no barriers to doing so earlier. Furthermore, only a quarter (26%) of children brush their teeth for the recommended two minutes per session.
The survey also highlighted how lack of dental engagement may be contributing to parental confusion around positive factors for oral health and free treatments available on the NHS:
- 20% incorrectly thought that fruit smoothies were good for their child’s teeth
- 20% incorrectly believe that sippy cups are good for their child’s teeth
- 1 in 8 parents (13%) incorrectly said fluoride is bad for their child’s teeth
- Nearly a third (31%) were unaware of free NHS treatments available to kids such as fluoride varnishing
In response to these issues, My Dentist has launched a new nationwide Kids Club to provide parents and children with better information aimed at tackling dental disengagement and ensuring the best possible start to kids’ early dental experiences. Key initiatives of the programme include:
- Kids Club App: Innovative digital resource to educate, engage and reward children
- My Little Book of Big Smiles: In-depth parental resource available online and in-practice to educate on early dental health
- Kids Club Dental Unit: Mobile facility to introduce kids to the dental practice environment and increase access through more effective community engagement
- Free Brushing Aids: Two minute timer to encourage kids to brush their teeth for the recommended duration
Commenting, Barry Cockcroft, Former Chief Dental Officer for NHS England and Non-Executive Director at My Dentist said: “Early dental care can be a confusing, daunting issue for many parents. As an industry we must work harder to ensure the best and most appropriate resources are available. Better education must support the significant access improvements the industry and its relevant stakeholders are making, in order to build a system where the key drivers of prevention and treatment can work effectively together.
“At My Dentist we want to be at the forefront of this evolution. Today’s launch of our Kids Club initiative is a crucial first step. We will deliver innovation to our patients and change outdated perceptions of the sector through providing a service that has the hallmarks of professional expertise, trust and long-term relationships offered nationwide through modern, transparent and convenient patient delivery.”
My Dentist’s website, includes the downloadable My Little Book of Big Smiles is accessible at www.mydentist.co.uk.